In keeping with Paul McCartney’s birthday week, this week’s #askNat question is very Paul-related. It comes from Thom Vourlas in Norfolk VA who sent this to me back in March:
Regarding mono and stereo “She’s Leaving Home”… knowing Paul McCartney’s dissatisfaction with Phil Spector reworking “The Long And Winding Road” years later, I’m curious why he wasn’t vocal about someone fooling around with the Sgt. Pepper track. And which one did HE actually prefer?
A good question indeed, Thom and thanks for writing in. Allow me to backtrack a little bit here first with some background info. Paul wrote “The Long And Winding Road” and was apparently livid with the orchestrations and choir producer Phil Spector put on it without his permission. Actually it was done in his absence, as he was spending time in Scotland on his farm at the time Phil was re-working the songs for the Let It Be album. According to a letter Paul wrote to Allen Klein, who was acting manager of The Beatles and overseeing the Let It Be production, he had considered orchestration for the song but had decided against it. Despite Paul’s letter to Klein, Phil’s production was what ended up on the album and we never got to hear how Paul intended it to sound until Let It Be…Naked was released 33 years later in 2003.
Thom’s question is a valid one since “She’s Leaving Home” recorded a couple years earlier for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is actually completely orchestrated as well. In fact, no Beatles play instruments on the track at all. Paul had an independent producer named Mike Leander score the song since George Martin was busy with producing a Cilla Black session at the time Paul wanted it done. George conducted the score however on March 17, 1967 and Paul, along with John Lennon, added their vocals three days later.
In response to Thom I should say that we shouldn’t misread Paul in not wanting heavy orchestration on “The Long And Winding Road” to mean he is necessarily opposed to heavy orchestration on other tracks where he and/or the other Beatles may deem it appropriate. Paul likely composed the melody for “She’s Leaving Home” on his piano, but felt a string arrangement would be more suitable for it. Since this was largely his own decision he would have no reason to be dissatisfied with having the song orchestrated, whereas he decided it would NOT be a good idea for “The Long And Winding Road.” Nevertheless, it was done anyway, behind his back, with an arrangement that was far inferior to any that George Martin would have done at a time when the relations between Paul, the other Beatles and Sir George were better. Besides, despite the way the “Spectorized” version of Let It Be came out, it was initially intended to be a back-to-basics, no overdubs, tracked-live type of album anyway. So how does orchestration fit into that concept? So much for how that idea turned out.
Thom also asks which mix of “She’s Leaving Home” Paul prefers since the mono and stereo mixes from the Sgt. Pepper LP differ. The mono mix of the track is sped up to raise the pitch from E to nearly F major and they forgot to do this on the stereo mix, which consequently runs about 14 seconds longer, playing at the speed that it was actually recorded. While I have no confirmation from Paul himself, I’m guessing that he prefers the mono mix as he and the other Beatles were actually involved with mixing it and they were not present for the mixing of the stereo tracks. Had they been there, it’s very possible that the stereo mix would have had the speed adjusted as well.
The recording of “She’s Leaving Home” included a harp, double bass, 4 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos. The additions given to “The Long And Winding Road” included a 35-piece orchestra and 14-piece choir.
Thanks again for an interesting topic to discuss, Thom. Feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below.
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Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase music related to this post:
1) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 2009 remastered CD of the original 1967 stereo LP featuring “She’s Leaving Home.”
2) Let It Be – 2009 remastered CD of original 1970 LP featuring Phil Spector’s orchestrated original version of “The Long And Winding Road.”
3) Let It Be… Naked – 2003 CD of “naked” versions of “Let It Be” tracks stripped of Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” treatment of “Across The Universe,” “I, Me, Mine” and “The Long And Winding Road.”